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Day in the Sun

Mikkel Ploug

Label: Songlines Recordings
Released: 2022
Views: 1,958


Nocturne; Daybreak; Over the Hills; Day in the Sun; Rosette; Robledo; April; Dance of Minor Motive; Afterthought; Mosaic; Hymn in E; Barcarola; Nighttide; Isolde’s Song.


Album Description

In 2017 Danish guitarist Mikkel Ploug created Alleviation, a solo acoustic guitar record inspired by his recently acquired 1944 mahogany-top Gibson “Banner” LG-2. The album was warmly received, e.g. “Ploug finds a way to meld mind and matter into one unified musical sound” (Dan Bilawsky, AllAboutJazz) and “some of the most beautiful and unexpected solo guitar music one might wish to hear” (Stuart Broomer, The Whole Note). Ploug continued to explore the acoustic realm on his Gibson and a new hybrid flamenco-classical guitar from Granada luthier Manuel Bellido. In the early months of the pandemic he gave nightly live-streamed performances on electric guitar from his Copenhagen apartment, documented on Balcony Lullabies (Stunt). Now comes the follow-up to Alleviation: 14 gems that again weave together different stylistic paths and sonic spaces in innovative ways.

In the process of developing this music Ploug was especially drawn to contemporary Danish composer Bent Sørensen, whose piece “Barcarola” is the only non-Ploug composition on the record  “Lately my inspiration has been found in the solo piano music of composers like Sørensen, Hans Abrahamsen, Valentin Silvestrov and Shostakovich and in jazz pianists Craig Taborn and Jason Moran. Sørensen’s piano nocturnes have a fantastic use of space, counterpoint and melody – I just feel connected to his music like it’s the continuation of Carl Nielsen’s music from my childhood. Nielsen wrote hundreds of short melodic pieces that carry so much weight and beauty. I’m realizing more and more that I actually have some musical roots, namely the Danish folk songbook tradition – a collection of folk music and classic Scandinavian hymns. And the harmonic landscape and the melodic character of this music is deep within me. I think I’m maybe just trying to recreate the feeling I had hearing some of these powerful melodies for the first time.”

"And often the road to finding these superficially very simple elements is very, very long and requires so much time, deep listening and dedication. I always felt like I was more a songwriter than a composer. I always set out again and again trying to write the strongest melody I could. But for me this always means some kind of chromaticism and often some kind of harmonic twist or turn that at least takes me by surprise and therefor touches me. I almost never work with any preconceived ideas or formulas, however I will often explore a harmonic idea or any musical curiosity I might have picked up, often from classical pieces. But my guide is always melody, step by step, slowly, and a feeling of being honest as well.”

In his solo playing Ploug doesn’t focus on improvisation for its own sake: “The interpretational aspect is enough to keep me engaged. But if I’m naturally drawn to start improvising on part of a tune or the whole piece that often means that there should probably be improvisation in it. ‘Afterthought’ is a piece like that ­– I take a classic solo, playing on the entire form as if it was a standard.”

All but three of these performances are on the Gibson: “This old guitar is full of songs – its warm midrange tone means it can offer an almost classical type of sound, though the steel string ‘western’ element still dominates. But it means I can create music that doesn’t remind me of typical guitar recordings, and that helps leave prejudices at the door when composing…Working on Alleviation I became more interested in the history of the guitar and music specifically for guitar. I heard an old recording of Josefina Robledo, and even through the very poor sound you can hear her amazing guitar tone. Partly this comes from her not using nails but the flesh of the fingers, and gut strings (which were the only ones available at the time). When I spun the Bellido with gut strings and worked on a no-nail technique I found a warm sound that inspired the first piece of the album, ‘Nocturne’. You can make a rich sound with a very light touch, the guitar is very light and super alive. Every note is huge, independent and broad, almost like every string is its own personal voice in a choir. So this means for me that a simple triad can sound very exciting!”



Album uploaded by Michael Ricci

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